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Microsoft Issues Outlook 2007 Update To Improve Performance

Microsoft also issued an update to Outlook 2007 that should improve performance significantly, by reducing the download time of messages and the system freeze that usually accompanies it, as well as freezes when moving and deleting messages. The problems were there (and are still not fixed, just lessened) because Outlooks’ main PST file has become a dumping ground for RSS feeds, calendar, todo items, and, oh yeah, gigabytes of emails, making it mighty unweildly.

Microsoft needs to compartmentalize the PST files, so they are all limited to a small, quick-loading size, and let search take over most large problems. Of course, they also need to fix search. I have 51,197 items not indexed, which makes me think search isn’t indexing at all (it certainly isn’t working, at all). I have been looking for advanced options to monitor and control Windows Vista search and Outlook search, and thus far, no luck. I wonder what’s broken?

Zoli Erdos says there’s a simple solution to Outlook search and performance issues: Gmail, which is instantaneous. He’s right. Microsoft needs to realize that anything more than a few seconds is unacceptable.

April 16th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Outlook, Applications | no comments

Add Classic Menus and Toolbars To Office 2007’s Ribbon


Okay, so you’re not a big fan of the Office 2007 Ribbon, or just can’t use it right, but already own the software and don’t have any other options, Addintools has released this useful add-in that brings the menus and toolbars back to Word, Excel and Powerpoint. The add-in creates a new Robbin tab called Menu, which has all of the classic menus and typical toolbars you’d be used to with older versions of Office, but with all the new features added.

The menus/toolbars and Ribbon coexist, so this setup can allow advanced and old-fashioned users to both enjoy Office 2007. I love the Ribbon, but there are always going to be longtime users resistant to the change it represents, and unable to train to use the new software. It costs $30 for all three programs, or $16 for just one, but if I had someone who couldn’t use the Ribbon, that’s a small price to pay to keep the far more expensive Office suite useful
(via Digg)

April 16th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Word, Office, Applications, General | one comment

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Windows Vista Beta Expires In 46 Days

Are you still running the beta or release candidate versions of Windows Vista? Well, jeez, buy the full version, ya dope! It’s expiring on June 1, in just 46 days. ComputerWorld details what testers who still haven’t upgraded will have to deal with: hell. See, four facts conspire to make upgrading from Vista beta to Vista final a hassle:

  • You can’t upgrade from an upgrade disk, you need a full version disk
  • You can’t upgrade to a version of Vista to a lesser version of Vista
  • You can’t downgrade from Vista to XP
  • Almost everyone who installed the beta of Vista installed Ultimate

So, if you installed Vista Ultimate beta, you can’t buy an upgrade disk. You can’t buy Vista Home Premium or Vista Business. You can’t reinstall your old copy of XP, then upgrade to retail Vista. So, you’re stuck wiping your hard drive, or buying the full, $400 version of Vista Ultimate. Ouch.

What should you do? Well, if you don’t have the money, take any Vista DVD from a buddy and install it as a trial version. Read around, and you can keep the trial installed for a pretty long time with a few tricks. Use that time to save up to actually buy the damn thing. If you do have the money, buy any upgrade version (Home Premium is the best bet, at $159) and install it twice, using these instructions, or buy a full version from an OEM reseller for pretty cheap.

Good luck!

In other news, Apple has announced its next operating system upgrade, known as Leopard, will be delayed from its expected June launch to October, due to too much work being done on the iPhone. Whoops. Lets hope this stops any more mentions of the Vista delays.

Todd Bishop wonders if Apple plans on issuing free upgrade coupons to those who buy Macs between June and October, like Microsoft did when Vista was delayed. If Apple is smart, it will, because not doing so would alienate a lot of back-to-school buyers.

Oh, and here’s the latest Mac vs. PC ad from Apple:

The response is obvious: A commercial where the Mac is enormously thin, and the PC asks why, and the Mac answers that he has no software to eat.
(via Giz)

April 16th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Vista, Apple, Windows | no comments

Berkowitz Intends To Crack Open The Vault

Todd Bishop posts that Steve Berkowitz, senior VP in charge of Microsoft’s Online Services Group, is saying that he intends to “crack open the vault” of cool stuff created at Microsoft, stuff that never sees the light of day (or is never productized in time to be a smash hit) and bring some amazing things to users. I am so glad to hear that, since it’s something I’ve complained about in the past, that some great stuff at Microsoft never makes it to the user, when it really should.

I’ve heard stories of Microsoft teams that have made great stuff, and then had to approach other Microsofties at trade shows to sell them products! These are products/solutions Microsoft has already invested in, already owns, and could use completely for free, but the people who make it have to go through hell to get it to the people who ship it. Microsoft’s biggest motto lately is “Better Together”, and it looks like Steve is serious about making that happen.

Thank god!

April 16th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Corporate | no comments

Sony Kills Cheaper PS3

Sony announced late last week that it was discontinuing sales of the $500 PlayStation 3, the 20-gigabyte version, due to low sales. According to Engadget, the $600, 60-gigabyte PS3 was outselling its slightly cheaper sibling by a factor of 10 to 1, forcing the dropping of the axe.


It honestly doesn’t make much sense. The differences between the two consoles were tiny, making it just plain confusing that people would be willing, 10 to 1, to pay $100 for forty gigabytes (forty gigs that are underused, compared to the Xbox 360 and its video marketplace). The only theory that holds up? The only people buying the PS3 were affluent people (since $500-600 is too much for the average consumer), and they didn’t care about an extra hundred.

This is great news for Microsoft. MS can now point to the face that there is no PS3 of comparable price to an Xbox 360. The Core system is half the price of the PS3, the Premium is $200 cheaper, and the Elite is $120 cheaper. The PS3 isn’t even close, and without the 20-gig version, it will likely never come close within the entire lifecycle of the console. That’s a huge PR advantage for Microsoft, one Sony should have tried harder to hold onto.

I’m guessing Sony’s biggest motivation was that, if the PS3 is having enough trouble piling on the sales, at least they should go with the higher margin console. Didn’t they remember that it’s more important to get the damn thing in customer’s hands than to increase your margins? It’s the market share, dummy!

UPDATE: Now Sony is reportedly considering an 80-gig PS3. Maybe they’ll discount the 60-gig a few bucks and release the 80-gig at the current price. Of course, why would the 60-gig sell? Weird.

April 16th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Sony, Xbox 360, Xbox | no comments

XBox 360 Getting Lots Of New Video Codecs

Xbox 360 Fanboy reports that next month’s Xbox 360 Dashboard update will bring support for the console to play more video formats. Currently, it can only manage WMV (and maybe others, barely, with much grief, through extenders), but after the update will be capable of playing:

  • H.264 (1080p Level 4.1 and High Profile), up to 15 Mbps
  • MPEG4 Part 2 up to 8 Mbps

As Red Kawa says:

This puts Microsoft at the head of the pack in the Apple TV vs PS3 vs Xbox 360 video battle royale. Wth the Xbox 360 you get full 1080p video support (aka H.264 Level 4.1) as well as H.264 High Profile support. The Apple TV maxes out at 720p (Level 3.1) and H.264 Main Profile support. Meanwhile the PS3 supports 1080p (Level 4.1) but only at H.264 Main Profile as well.

Great work, Microsoft, adding in some extra codecs. As of now, streaming video to the 360 is still a pain, requiring software like TVersity (which has never worked for me) or re-encoding the video ahead of time (which most people have no clue how to do). Without AVI codec support, the 360 still isn’t perfect, but it is getting there.

What Microsoft needs to do next is provide a program for getting AVI codecs on the 360. My recommendation: Charge for it. If that’ll get DivX and Xvid video on the console, I’ll do whatever it takes. Five, ten bucks for a codec is a small price to pay for pain-free video streaming.

Also, ShowBizData notes that South Park, which is now selling High Definition episodes of South Park on the Xbox Live Video Marketplace, without having any HD channel on any cable/satellite system, is breaking ground, as the first show to circumvent the limitations of cable/satellite and deliver HD content direct to the consumer. Judging by the failure of cable and satellite companies to deliver HD, this may be a common thing in coming years.

Plus, the GamerScore blog notes new video coming tot he XBox Live Video Marketplace, including TV shows like Shanghai 6, Long Story Short, Waiting Game, Gamehead Season 3, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Season 3, and Blade TV, and movies like Tenacious D & The Pick of Destiny and Beer League. Also supposed to have happened: A free episode of Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen Adventures. As far as I can tell, that free episode never appeared. Whoops.

April 16th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Xbox Live, Xbox 360, Xbox, General | 5 comments

You Thought We’d Take This Sitting Down!?

Microsoft issued this statement late last night:

Microsoft has released the following statement by Brad Smith, Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation, on the proposed acquisition of DoubleClick by Google:

“This proposed acquisition raises serious competition and privacy concerns in that it gives the Google DoubleClick combination unprecedented control in the delivery of online advertising, and access to a huge amount of consumer information by tracking what customers do online. We think this merger deserves close scrutiny from regulatory authorities to ensure a competitive online advertising market.”

Aw snap! It’s on!

But seriously, that’s some serious stuff to be spouting. Microsoft did this as a concerted effort, along with Yahoo and AT&T, all of whom want the government to closely look at Google’s purchase of DoubleClick. Those companies all wanted to buy DoubleClick, and it was a known thing in industry circles that the asking price for the ad firm was around two billion dollars. Google bought it for $3.1 billion, lifting its pastel colored middle finger all the way, and that aggressiveness is only going to remind regulators of one thing:


Yeah, Google may have become Microsoft over the weekend. 1990s Microsoft, that is. That Microsoft was powerful, nimble, ballsy, aggressive, and kicked your ass ten different ways if it thought you were even thinking about competiting. That Microsoft went too far, and got smacked down, and is working hard to become a successful company while not becoming that company. Looks like Google didn’t learn.

Is anything going to happen? Short term, hell no. Google is going to have to answer some tough questions, but it’ll get DoubleClick. However, if DoubleClick becomes successful as a part of Google, and Google claims more market share, and becomes a monopoly in search, online advertising, online applications, and online video, it is in for some serious trouble. Between the two, Google and DoubleClick account for eighty percent of online ads delivered to publishers, a scary statistic.

You thought it was bad when Microsoft got hit by regulators last time? Thoughts on the Google side in my next post on InsideGoogle.

What does this mean for Microsoft? They’re acknowledging that they are scared. That Google is too rich, has too much momentum and market share, and is moving too fast and hard for anyone else. Microsoft knows that a non-competitive market is a bad place to be, unless you are the top dog, and it doesn’t want to be the Mac to Google’s Windows (or more likely and worse, the Lotus to Google’s Office).

Microsoft sees the writing on the wall. Google’s position in search is nearly impossible to attack. They’ve tried with some serious balls-to-the-wall coding, hiring, and spending money. Yahoo built a world class platform, and lost market share. Ask is innovating like Edison, and can’t climb out of the cellar. I really like Google search, but a one-sided market is just unfair. We need a shakeup, we need innovation and risks.

When was the last time Google changed anything significant in its search engine? It tweaks and it tweaks and it tweaks, but it won’t do an advanced interface. Why? Because it knows it has the market share, so it only needs to (a) tweak the pages to use up less bandwidth and processor power and (b) make small improvements to keep things moving forward, albeit at five miles per hour.

Google Search is Internet Explorer 6. There, I said it. I love Google, but holy crap, I don’t want them to become Microsoft. Maybe they already are.

Okay, I’ve got more to say on the Google side, but I’m going to continue this on the InsideGoogle blog.

And an update: The Birthday Gift Camera Fund stands at anywhere from 20-35% complete, and don’t forget to wish a happy birthday…

April 16th, 2007 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Google | 3 comments